The image of the bureaucrat stamping piles of documents is recognizable as a Central European cultural trope. Labyrinths of paper and faceless institutional corridors have long been part of the literary imagination of the region. In East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars, historian Joseph Rothschild suggests that bureaucracy was a feature both typifying this region and stunting its growth. But bureaucratic organization is a staple of any modern state (Weber). Why then is it seen as a particular fetish, and downfall, of Central Europe? How did such a stereotype arise and how can it be challenged? How do ideas of at once hyperactive and dysfunctional bureaucracies relate to the notions of stunted progress which have characterized the region? And how can a study of bureaucracy unseat the very idea of Central Europe? The organizers invite reflections on both state and private (corporate) bureaucracies and the myth of bureaucratic coherence, as well as notions of efficiency and inefficiency.
This interdisciplinary conference welcomes proposals from graduate students and early career researchers in a range of humanities and social sciences working on the Central European region in the broadest possible sense. We encourage submissions pertaining, but not limited to work with institutional archives and materiality, representations of bureaucracy and the bureaucrat, anthropological and sociological investigations of embodied experiences of bureaucracy, and studies of institutional change and continuity over time under imperial, authoritarian, and democratic regimes. Despite the twentieth-century examples in the title, the organizers seek submissions relating to earlier historical periods too. Submissions which take a trans-national, trans-imperial and pan-regional view are particularly welcome.
Keynote speaker: Ben Kafka (New York University)
The language of the conference is English. In fine bureaucratic tradition, submissions should include a 300 word abstract and a CV. The deadline for applications is 5 September, 2016. Notification of acceptance will be made before 30 September 2016.
How to apply
Submissions should be sent to Rosamund Johnston and Veronika Pehe at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference will be sponsored by New York University and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague. Contributions towards travel and accommodation are available.
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